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Defense carries K-State women past No. 13 Iowa State

By Joshua Kinder

The Kansas State women’s basketball team made one of the best players in the Big 12 this season look quite average Saturday night. It was a defensive effort that paid off, as the Wildcats survived a late run by 13th-ranked Iowa State to earn an 80-74 upset over the Cyclones at Bramlage Coliseum.

Staff photo by Fran Ruchalski
(Kansas State’s Leti Romero puts up a shot between two Iowa State defenders on Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum).

K-State led by as many as 16 with four minutes to go and outlasted a barrage of 3s from the Cyclones down the stretch to earn its second straight victory.

Iowa State’s Hallie Christofferson — the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 at 21 points a game — was held to just four points on Saturday, making just 2 of 11 from the field. The senior forward scored the Cyclones’ second basket of the game and then didn’t score again until the 3:18 mark of the second half.

“We have so much respect for her and it took a team to do it, to slow her down,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “We had Ashia (Woods) on her, had Katya (Leick) on her, Bri Craig on her, Chantay (Caron) on her and (Bre) Lewis on her. I felt like that was our only chance, to continue to mix looks and stay active and fortunately tonight we were able to be effective in limiting some of her touches.

“Most nights, of those 11 shots, you figure she’s going to make eight or nine of them.”

K-State’s strong defensive effort wasn’t just reserved for Christofferson, however, as the Wildcats pestered the Cyclones (14-3, 3-3 Big 12) all night, forcing Iowa State into rushed and bad shots. Iowa State, which missed 17 layups alone, finished just 34 percent from the field (20 of 59) — 19 percent in the first half — and lost its third straight game.

As good as the Wildcats (8-9, 2-4) were on defense, they were equally as good on offense. K-State shot nearly 50 percent from the field (25 of 51), made nine 3-pointers and 21 of 30 from the foul line with just 10 turnovers on the night.

Leti Romero and Leick led the Wildcats’ offensive charge, both finishing with career highs in K-State’s first victory over a Top-25 opponent this season.

Romero made 8 of 15 shots — including three 3-pointers — to finish with 27 points. The aggressive freshman point guard, who scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game, also added six rebounds and five assists with only one turnover.

(Kansas State’s Katya Leick guards an Iowa State player during the Wildcats’ win over the Cyclones on Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum).

Leick was 6 of 11 from the field with four 3-pointers, finishing with 23 points and five rebounds. Bri Craig was K-State’s only other player in double figures, as she finished 12 points off the bench.

“As Big 12 play has evolved more, (Leti) is understanding more of the American game and the aggressiveness you have to bring to it,” Patterson said. “I think we have the capacity to drop down shots… It was neat to see Bri Craig come in and drop them down. It was great for Katya. It was a long dry spell for our kids.”

This was a game that K-State almost led from the beginning, using a 13-0 run in the first seven minutes to build a 15-5 lead. The Wildcats made six of their first 11 shots, including three baskets from long range — two from Romero and one from Leick.

The Cyclones, meanwhile, made their first attempt of the game, but then missed 10 of their next 11 shots, including six layups during that stretch. Iowa State finished the first half just 6 of 31 from the field, despite outrebounding the Wildcats by four, committing fewer turnovers and making 6 of 7 from the foul line, compared to no attempts for K-State.

“That first half, defensively, was very important for us,” Patterson said. “I think still had a bit of a carryover from the last two games, but I thought our kids were real accountable in that first half and helped them believe that they could compete possession-by-possession with Iowa State.”

Even with Christofferson a non-factor, Iowa State was able to keep it reasonably close for a while, cutting the deficit to four at 15-11 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Brynn Williamson midway through the first half. Williamson led the Cyclones with 17 points.

But again, K-State had an answer and pushed its lead to 11 behind another trey from Romero with 6:02 remaining in the half. The Wildcats, who shot a blistering 12 of 27 from the field (44 percent) in the first half — including 6 of 14 from behind the arc — led by as many as 13 in opening 20 minutes.

“Our coaches really prepared us well,” Leick said. “We really focused on certain points. You have to play defense and get rebounds and offense is going to come. We all locked and knew what we needed to do to get that win.”

The Wildcats return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Waco, Texas, to face Baylor at 7 p.m.

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